A day for debate and discussions

By Natalie Lasky

Youngstown State University selected students to join other colleges and high schools to participate in a Day of Discourse, sponsored by the Ohio Debate Commission and Akron University at the Incision Stadium in Akron, Ohio on Oct. 11. 

The day was filled with roundtable discussions, lectures, and a Q&A session with professionals within the journalism and civic-engagement sectors. Media representatives from various news outlets along with moderators from past political debates offered insight to what it takes to be successful within media and political industries.

Jill Zimon, executive director of the ODC, a nonpartisan not-for-profit collaboration of media organizations, universities, and civic organizations across Ohio, explains what the Day of Discourse is all about.

“Here in Akron, we’ve got one full day of programming with high school and college students to kind of understand the intersection of democracy, debates, journalism and civic engagement,” Zimon said.

Roundtable discussions allowed students to voice their opinions on a variety of topics that they wanted to see addressed by gubernatorial candidates. 

Haley Zelinski, a YSU senior and graphics design major, has always been fascinated with politics. She took this opportunity to become more involved and learn what other universities had to offer when it came to professional communications for candidates.

“It was interesting to see what other universities had for communication just overall in political communication, more specifically … I think hearing from everyone who was a professional in the field of political communication was definitely my favorite part,” Zelinski said.

Jerry Miller is a professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University and chair of the outreach program for the ODC. Miller explained the ODC had prepared for gubernatorial debates and senatorial debates to happen Monday through Wednesday of the week in Akron.

Because the gubernatorial and senatorial candidates declined to debate, the ODC decided to hold a Day of Discourse for students and community members to participate and let their voices be heard.

“[The debates] that didn’t happen in reference to the candidates choosing not to participate in the debates, but we went ahead with our plans with the day at public deliberation program, which invited high school students, college students and community members … to learn about the media ecosystem and political ecosystem in the state of Ohio,” Miller said.

Miller went on to say that he hopes the community will take home that spirit to engage others in conversation about the good and bad within their communities.

For those interested in learning more about the Ohio Debate Commission, visit its website.